College financial aid policies can vary significantly, so be sure to check with each school.
The CollegeBoard suggests an interested student or parent “schedule a phone meeting or an interview with a member of the financial aid staff” to get answers to any questions that are not answered by information on the college website.
A list of 12 questions to get you started on gathering information is provided. In my experience, the answers to most of these questions can usually be found on college websites, so be sure to check there before you make a call.
A dozen questions to get you started:
- What’s the average total cost — including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, travel, and other personal expenses — for the first year
- How much have your costs increased over the last three years?
- Does financial need have an effect on admission decisions?
- What is the priority deadline to apply for financial aid and when am I notified about financial aid award decisions?
- How is financial aid affected if I apply under an early decision or early action program?
- Does the college offer need-based and merit-based financial aid?
- Are there scholarships available that aren’t based on financial need and do I need to complete a separate application for them?
- If the financial aid package the college offers isn’t enough, are there any conditions under which it can be reconsidered, such as changes in my family’s financial situation or my enrollment status (or that of a family member)?
- How does the aid package change from year to year?
- What are the terms of the programs included in the aid package?
- What are the academic requirements or other conditions for the renewal of financial aid, including scholarships?
- When can I expect to receive bills from the college and is there an option to spread the yearly payment over equal monthly installments?
If you want to be super organized, you can create a spreadsheet with all relevant data.